Plans to transition a James Island elementary school to an all-Montessori curriculum may be changing after some Charleston County School Board members asked for a review.
The School Board's Strategic Education Committee on Tuesday told school district officials to come to the board's July 28 meeting ready to discuss plans to transition Murray-Lasaine Elementary School to an all Montessori curriculum by 2021.
The request follows a contentious community meeting at the school last month at which the issue of Montessori instruction divided parents and community members along racial lines, with some black parents urging the district to keep traditional classes at the school.
The committee organized the meeting after a group of parents from the school insisted school district officials told a neighborhood planning committee for Murray-Lasaine that the school would continue to offer both traditional and Montessori classes. District officials have maintained the plan was always to make Murray-Lasaine an all-Montessori school.
"After the community meeting, the perception of several board members including me is that Murray-Lasaine needs to be revisited," said School Board member Tom Ducker.
Although meeting minutes from the school's neighborhood planning committee never said the school would continue to offer both traditional and Montessori classes, Ducker said nothing specifically said the school would become exclusively Montessori.
"It was unclear to me after reading all the correspondence that we were heading to full Montessori," he said.
Ducker said he expects there to be a motion at the school board meeting next week to continue offering both traditional and Montessori classes at the school.
The school board originally voted in 2012 to make Murray-Lasaine a Montessori school after district officials and the school's neighborhood planning committee supported the concept as a way to deal with dwindling enrollment.
Michael Bobby, the district's chief financial officer, reminded the education committee on Tuesday that changing the plan for Montessori at the school could impact a renovation of the school - which is already under way - to accommodate the hands-on learning style of Montessori instruction.
Associate Superintendent Terri Nichols, who oversees the district's elementary schools, said enrollment in traditional classes at the school is already low with some classes having less than 10 children. Around 100 students are enrolled in traditional classes for the fall while more than 150 students are signed up for Montessori classes.